Healthcare | WYPR

Healthcare

Healthcare coverage from WYPR is made possible by support from GBMC HealthCare.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced today another special enrollment period for health insurance, opening just weeks after an earlier enrollment period closed in December. 

Starting immediately, uninsured Marylanders can enroll in a health insurance plan through the state’s health benefit exchange through March 15.

Michele Eberle, the Executive Director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, said she hopes the special enrollment period will give residents some peace of mind as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. 

SCREENSHOT VIA MAYOR BRANDON M. SCOTT FB PAGE

Positive COVID-19 cases in Baltimore City are 23% lower than they were four weeks ago, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard

Meanwhile, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott urged city residents to stay safe by wearing masks, socially distancing and limiting indoor gatherings to people in the same household. 

CREDIT PRESERVATION MARYLAND/FLICKR

Maryland leaders are calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to provide COVID relief funds for struggling families and businesses. 


State Comptroller Peter Franchot said at a news conference that Congress’ latest stimulus bill would not be enough. He said the state has billions of dollars in reserves it can use for relief in addition to federal aid, and that the governor needs to act now. 

SCREENSHOT VIA CHARM TV

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced a new contact tracing campaign called “Baltimore vs. COVID” today. The campaign comes as a surge of COVID-19 continues in the city.

Scott says the campaign aims to get more residents to answer contact tracing calls from the city and state health departments. 

SARAH Y. KIM/WYPR

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced sweeping new COVID-19 restrictions Wednesday during his first press conference since being inaugurated.

The restrictions are the city’s toughest since March.

Standing in front of City Hall, Scott said hospitals will be overwhelmed with patients if the city does not act now.

“The health and safety of Baltimoreans is my top priority,” he said. “I will not waver or hesitate to make decisions that save lives in Baltimore.”

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Just over a week after Thanksgiving, Maryland surpassed 3,000 new daily COVID-19 cases two days in a row.

Maryland broke its daily case record Friday when it reported 3,792 new cases. The previous record was 2,910. On Saturday the state reported 3,193 new cases.

Dr. Lisa Maragakis, the senior director for infection prevention for the Johns Hopkins Health System, said Thanksgiving indoor gatherings likely contributed to the surge.

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The University of Maryland Medical Center has opened a new 16-bed modular care unit for COVID-19 patients, the first of its kind in Baltimore.

The unit is an addition to the center’s 168 adult ICU beds.

Planning for the unit began in July, after the center was overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in the spring. Dr. Gregory Schrank, co-incident commander of the center’s pandemic response, said the unit opened just in time.

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Nearly half of Marylanders planned to gather indoors for Thanksgiving, despite warnings from public health experts that those gatherings may exacerbate the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, according to a University of Maryland Medical System survey last week.

Now, Dr. Chris Thompson, an immunologist and Associate Professor of Biology at Loyola University Maryland, said we’re about to see whether there will be consequences to those decisions.

NEELAM279/PIXABAY

Public health experts are warning of the possibility of what they’re calling a twindemic this year, if a bad flu season and COVID-19 coincide.

Rebecca Dineen, the assistant commissioner of the Baltimore health department’s Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, told a City Council committee Tuesday the ongoing pandemic may be contributing to public distrust of flu vaccines among Baltimore residents.

NICKJMOSBY.COM

Baltimore City Council President-Elect Nick Mosby has added his voice to pleas from health experts and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention urging people to stay home for Thanksgiving this year.

He warned at a press conference today with other city council members that if people stop taking COVID-19 seriously, Thanksgiving gatherings could become superspreader events across the country.

AP/PATRICK SEMANSKY

 

The Baltimore City Council is to vote on a bill Monday night that would provide lawyers to tenants facing eviction cases. The bill comes amid concerns about a mass eviction crisis as tenants struggle to pay rent because of the pandemic.  

For most of the pandemic, Maryland has been under state and federal eviction moratoriums. In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered a ban on evictions until 2021.

Flickr / U.S. Navy photo by Ricardo J. Reyes

Wednesday, a record 104,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in a single day. As infections surge, health officials in many areas once again fear that their health systems will be overwhelmed. England and Europe are in a second national lockdown.

Dr. Leana Wen joins Tom for the hour to examine what's behind this new wave of infections.

 

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/Alx bio

Maryland hospitals are preparing for a potential surge in COVID-19 patients. The state has yet to see a massive spike, but cases are on the rise. 

Dr. David Marcozzi is COVID-19 Incident Commander for the University of Maryland Medical System. He said the system’s hospitals are expanding ICU capacity, which means more beds, nursing staff and ventilators. The hospitals also have a more robust telemedicine system. 

But he is concerned that a potential wave might mean a shortage in staff, who may be personally affected by the virus. 

This year’s open enrollment period for health insurance starts on Sunday. If you’re not covered you have until Dec. 15 to get new insurance through Maryland’s Health Benefits Exchange. 

Jason Resendez, a healthcare strategist at Consumers for Quality Care, said nearly 75,000 Marylanders have lost health insurance because of the pandemic. 

Tmaximumge/Public Domain

City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa said Baltimore has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 positivity rates so far this month.  

The latest seven-day average is 4.4%. 

“That is concerning given that probably back in September, we were around two and a half percent,” Dzirasa said at a press conference. 

The city is still meeting its goal of maintaining a positivity rate below 5%. 

As of this morning, she said, Baltimore’s COVID cases increased by about 83% over the past four weeks. 

RACHEL BAYE/WYPR

You might not be 100% safe from COVID-19 if you’re voting early this week. But you can still vote in-person while minimizing risk. 

Dr. Daniel Morgan is a professor of epidemiology & public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

 

In an interview for WYPR’s podcast The Daily Dose, he said he voted by mail because it’s easier, but would still feel comfortable voting at the polls. 

The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) released a statewide poll of educators Monday on the safety measures they want at schools before they reopen.

The poll says that more than 95% of Maryland educators want to see safety measures like adequate ventilation, PPE and increased sanitation before schools physically reopen. 

CREDIT TMAXIMUMGE/PUBLIC DOMAIN

An immunologist from Loyola University Maryland says the draft plan for distributing a potential COVID-19 vaccine that Gov. Larry Hogan released Tuesday needs some work. 

“It's still a bit vague. It's still a bit broad, “ Dr. Chris Thompson, the immunologist, said in an interview. “But I think it's as good as it can be with the information that we have now.”

Under Hogan’s plan, the state would prioritize those vulnerable to developing complications related to COVID-19, as well as frontline first responders, health care workers and essential workers. 

SCREENSHOT VIA CHARM TV FACEBOOK PAGE

Baltimore’s health commissioner Letitia Dzirasa is urging residents to stay vigilant against COVID-19 with masks and social distancing, but also to protect themselves from the flu. 

At the mayor’s weekly briefing Wednesday morning, Dzirasa said that while the city’s positivity rate continues to decline, the daily count of new cases is 35% higher than last month’s. 

“We are here to remind people to continue to seek COVID testing at one of our mobile testing sites or at a clinical site,” she said. 

Saturday is World Mental Health Day in what has been a particularly difficult year for many Americans. 

Dr. Asha Patton-Smith, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente, said that the pandemic has been especially stressful for young people. 

“Social isolation and family stress has affected children and adolescents really more than any other demographic in this country,” she said on WYPR’s podcast The Daily Dose

 

PUBLICDOMAINPICTURES/PIXABAY

As Halloween approaches, you may want to rethink how you celebrate this year. 

Dr. Chris Thompson, an immunologist at Loyola University Maryland, says trick or treating may not be the best of ideas.

He told WYPR’s The Daily Dose there are ways to do it with minimal exposure to COVID-19.  

If you’re a Marylander in need of health insurance for next year, the open enrollment period starts in November and rates have gone down since last year. 

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Kathleen A. Birrane said prices for insurance plans have dropped for three consecutive years, for an approximate cumulative 30 percent drop since 2018. 

“The 2021 plans reflect really the lowest rates in years,” she said in a webinar Wednesday afternoon. “Which is extraordinary and wonderful.” 

SCREENSHOT VIA BALTIMORE COUNTY COUNCIL PAGE

The Baltimore County Council is voting on a bill Monday evening that aims to protect tenants from eviction during the pandemic. The bill consists of regulations on sudden residential rent increases.

Second District Councilman Izzy Patoka, the bill’s sponsor, presented the bill at a county council work session last week.

“The issue I'm bringing forward today.relates to an economic and health crisis,” he said at the session. 

CREDIT AP/PATRICK SEMANSKY

Baltimore City is applying for $2 million of rental assistance from the state tomorrow in the form of Community Development Block Grant Funds. 

City officials estimate that the $2 million would help about 333 households. But Valerie Piper, a city consultant for eviction prevention, acknowledged that nearly 10,000 households are in need. 

She said the state has about $16 million of block grant funds. 

@GovLarryHogan/Twitter

Gov. Larry Hogan has announced that starting Thursday, indoor visitation may begin in nursing homes that are not experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks or positive cases. 

In addition, Maryland child care facilities will now be operating at full capacity. Since July, centers allowed no more than 15 individuals per room. 

Now facilities may accommodate up to 20 three-year-olds and four-year-olds, or 30 school age children per room. 

PUBLIC DOMAIN

Patients who’ve survived COVID-19 may be at greater risk of developing long term heart problems. 

A recently published paper in the medical journal JAMA Cardiology featured a study where 78 of 100 subjects who had recovered from COVID-19 developed cardiac abnormalities. Many of them had no heart conditions before contracting the virus.

Tmaximumge/Public Domain

State health surveyors inspect and fine facilities who do not meet COVID-19 regulations, including testing. But in Maryland, the surveyors themselves are not required to be tested. 

Dr. Joseph DeMattos Jr, president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland, said state surveyors visit multiple nursing homes without getting tested. DeMattos said this increases the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

“We have a responsibility as leaders in health care to test our state health inspectors for coronavirus regularly,” DeMattos said. 

CREDIT CARMICHAELLIBRARY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

After a new outbreak of COVID-19, the University of Maryland, College Park is quarantining 200 students in one of its dorms for 14 days. The union representing thousands of employees at the university says it’s concerned about the safety of workers and students. 

Stuart Katzenberg, a representative of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Maryland Council 3, which oversees the union local. Katzenberg said that members of the union working at Denton Hall, where the students are quarantined, are now at risk of contracting the virus.

Wikimedia Commons/Frederic C. Chalfant

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may have ordered a moratorium on evictions through the end of this year to contain the spread of COVID-19. But housing advocates say that doesn’t mean Baltimore renters won't face a mass eviction crisis.

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